Election Commission's ban on political rallies extended until January 22
The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Saturday extended the ban on political rallies and roadshows until January 22 in view of the COVID-19 situation. The ban, announced last week, was supposed to end on January 15. The decision comes just weeks before elections are due to be held in five states. The EC, however, has allowed indoor gatherings subject to certain capacity limits.
Why does this story matter?
The ban extension comes as COVID-19 cases continue to surge across India. On Saturday morning, India added more than 2.68 lakh new COVID-19 cases to its tally. In fact, infections have jumped from nearly 20,000 to over 2.60 lakh in a span of two weeks. Experts say the new Omicron variant of coronavirus is driving the infections, which are expected to peak by January-end.
EC officials held several meetings today
Earlier in the day, officials of the EC held several meetings with central and state officials before taking the call. The poll body has allowed indoor political gatherings with up to 300 people, or 50% of the venue's capacity, or the limit set by the concerned state's disaster management authority. Political parties will be responsible for the enforcement of coronavirus-related protocols, the EC said.
When and where are elections due?
Polls are due to be held in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa, and Manipur. In UP, elections will be conducted in seven phases, on February 10, February 14, February 20, February 23, February 27, March 3, March 7. Voting in Punjab, Uttarakhand, and Goa, is due on February 14. In Manipur, votes will be cast in two phases, on February 27 and March 3.
COVID-19 situation in India
India on Saturday added over 2,68,000 new coronavirus cases and 402 related deaths. The daily positivity rate stands at 16.66% while the weekly positivity rate is at 12.84%. Meanwhile, the country's tally of infections involving the new Omicron variant has crossed 6,000, up from 5,753 on Friday. Several of the poll-bound states have seen a jump in COVID-19 infections in recent days.